Thursday, February 28, 2008

McCain and the War

For John McCain, dealing with the Iraq war issue is understandably tricky. McCain has declared he is willing to keep troops in Iraq "a hundred years" and has been clearly in favor of the policy of attacking the country. Here's how he untangles the issue in three* points (this is a summary of his position, not a direct quote):

1. The problem was not the invasion, it was the "Rumsfled" way of handling the occupation, which I criticized.
2. The surge has been working, and I supported that.
3.We shouldn't get involved in many military adventures, but it is best to go all in. It is best if the president simply allows military commanders (such as David Petraeus) to do their thing, and the presidents job is providing them with what they ask for. The lesson of Johnson and McNarmara was that politicians and civilians should not not micromanage the military.

I take issue with all of these.
1.It was folly to invade in the first place. This, McCain fails to recognize.
Following the invasion, the occupation was a disgrace and a disaster. However, McCain was hardly the staunch critic of the policy that he portrays himself as. His criticisms of Rumsfeld were muted until the Defense Secretary was thoroughly discredited (I'll post more on this later). It should be noted that criticizing Rumsfeld by name is a way of giving Bush a free pass, even though the responsibility for this sort of failure ultimately lies with the President, not the Secretary of Defense. If one criticizes Rumsfeld, one should criticize Bush. The sign on Harry Truman's desk said "the buck stops here". As much as Bush and McCain don't like this idea, the president bears the ultimate responsibility for failures of his administration.
2. The success of the surge is mainly illusionary. The appearance of success in Iraq is partly due to the fact we are now working with Sunni tribes in Al Anbar. These tribes by the way, are preparing for the fight against the Shi'ite government. Another reason is that Baghdad has been largely ethnically cleansed, so their is less fighting.
Once we end surge, and we will have to eventually, you will see just how chimerical progress actually has been.
3.
Georges Clemenceau said war is too important to be left to the generals.
When a politician such as John McCain say he intends to leave war to the generals, it's not a good thing. The point of a president is not to simply supply a commander with what he says he needs. What if you have two commanders who both claim to need resources and you are unable to supply both? This is not a hypothetical , considering that resources have been pulled of
Afghanistan and the hunt for bin Laden and dedicated to Iraq. Say that he will give Petraeus what he needs only abdicates the strategic role a president necessarily plays. Worse, it risks the usurpation of civilian control of the military.

*Typo: I originally said four points, but I meant to say just three.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr.

The proverbial "father of modern conservatism" and founder of the National Review was found dead at his desk. I heard William Kristol on Talk of the Nation eulogizing the man
When Kristol said pointed out that Buckley was foward-thinking enough to dedicate an issue to slamming right-wing anti-semitism, I couldn't help but help but think of Buckley's support for segregation. I guess the same respect he extended to Jews just doesn't apply to black-folks. I also can't help but remember that the National Review during Buckley's tenure was pro-Franco.
Nevertheless, Buckley was a greater man than the moral and intellectual dwarves that now drive the movement he sired. See this.

“Aren’t you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?” Buckley snaps at
Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because
Dick Cheney convinced him that Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. “No,”
Podhoretz replies. “As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War One,
the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran.” He says he is
“heartbroken” by this “rise of defeatism on the right.” He adds, apropos of
nothing, “There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only
contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we are
winning.”
The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley
leave them confused. Doesn’t he sound like the liberal media? Later, over
dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley “a coward.” His wife nods and
says, “Buckley’s an old man,” tapping her head with her finger to suggest
dementia.

While Buckley is the "father" of modern conservatism, he is also the biological father of Christopher Buckley, author of "Thank You for Smoking" and other satirical novels.
This always amused me: Buckley vs. Vidal.

Woodrow Wilson and Self-determination

Woodrow Wilson
I recently told my high-school history teacher about this blog, so this history post is in her honor. This piece in the London Review of Books by Pankaj Mishra is pretty interesting. Its on the relation between Woodrow Wilson's professed universal ideals and the movement to resist colonialism. Unsurprisingly, the author also writes about how these forces are still in play.

More Campaign Blogging

Clinton Camp Presses Super Delegates Not To Take Sides
It appears the Clinton campaign is trying to tell Super Delegates not to make up their minds to fast. For all those who worried that the Clinton machine would use Super-delegates to subvert the will of the people (I was never worried) you can breath easy.
It strikes me that though the Clinton campaign says she's the candidate of action and not of words, in the campaign has been the opposite. While the Clinton campaign has been spinning, the Obama campaign has been doing serious grass-roots organizing. Needless to say, spinning is much easier than organizing, though, watching Mark Penn spin, I am struck by how bad the Clintons are at that as well. The idea of a spin is to make you look good, not to paint yourself as a Machiavellian.
I based on the performance of the Clinton campaign under fire, I am more than a little glad that that's not the campaign that will be facing John McCain in the fall.

I Hate Russert

Russert considered by many a paragon of good journalism, to me represents the decadence of the media elites. Perhaps you think I am being a touch melodramatic, but witness this moment from last nights debate. Someone sent a letter to Talking Points Memo summarizing.
I think that breaking down Russert's Wright/Farrakhan questioning helps illuminate how truly bizarre it is:
1. The title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a sermon
delivered by Jeremiah Wright. Wright is Obama's pastor.
2. Wright is the "head" of United Trinity Church.
3. Wright said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."
4. Wright went with Farrakhan in 1984 to visit Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
5. Farrakhan has said that Judaism is a "gutter religion."6. Wright said
that when Obama's political opponents found out about the Libya visit, Obama's
Jewish support would dry up "faster than a snowball in Hell."
Russert's question is then "What do you do to assure Jewish Americans... you are
consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that
Farrakhan epitomizes greatness."
The first question about Farrakhan—and
Russert's insistence on mentioning Farrakhan's views regarding Judaism after
Obama had already denounced Farrakhan's bigotry—was all foreplay
leading up to this masterstroke in which Russert synthesizes the six discrete
facts into a knockout punch of innuendo and guilt by association: perhaps Obama
thinks that Louis Farrakhan, the man Obama explicitly denounced not one
minute before, is the very epitome of greatness.
All of the stuff about going to Libya, Farrakhan's "gutter religion" comment, and Jewish supporting drying up like a snowball in hell—that was all totally unnecessary to reach the ultimate question, but wasn't it fun?

This is noxious, is it not? Here's Josh Marshall's post. Barnett Rubin has more bashing Russert on the debate, and Matt Yglesias has on old Column entitled "The Unbearable Inanity of Time Russert".
Also note Hillary's terrible addendum. For a second, it seemed like she was about to say something worthwhile, but then it turned out she was just trying to make the smear stick. Obama diffused it well, though.

Candidate Blogging

Frank Rich's column this week skewers the Hillary campaign. Meanwhile, I really like this essay on Obama in the New York Review of Books. Ryan Lizza has a good piece on John McCain in a recent New Yorker. If you are confused by the McCain/ FEC story, you are not alone, but Josh Marshall helpful (and slightly profanely) explains it in yesterday's Talking Points TV episode.

Not Blogging Much

As I can't hyper-link, I haven't been blogging much. It's seriously been hard, I'm really going into blogging withdrawal. I'll blog some more later.

No Links

Unfortunately, my computer is not working, and the web browser I am currently using makes it almost impossible to post hyper-links, which is part of the reason for the blogging slowdown.

Dictatorship and Double-Standards

One thing that constantly annoys me is the way we in America discuss "global south" despotism. It seems to me that how terrible we judge a dictatorship to be is almost totally contingent on how friendly said dictator is to US interests. With Pervez Musharaff nearing the door, we should reflect on the easy ride that he has been given by this administration. The Bushies have nearly completely tied our interested to Pakistan with that of its increasingly unpopular military dictator.
The freedom agenda comes to this: if you are a despot, hold yourself some rigged elections, maybe let American troop be stationed in your country, maybe torture some of our prisoners, and you will be given all the benefits America can bestow upon you.
What is more frustrating our conversation on these issues biased toward American interests against objective facts. A somewhat authoritarian anti-American leader like Hugo Chavez is labeled a "dictator", yet pro-American despots like the arab oil sheikdom are called "moderate" and "reforming". By any measure, Saudi Arabia is more authoritarian than Iran, yet that is not the picture we come by, especially not by the administration's rhetoric.
When our leader wishes to go to war, propaganda swings into over-drive, and whatever leader that opposes is portrayed as the equivalent of Hitler. Now it is Ahmadinejad, but it's been so many before him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Christopher Dodd Endorses Barack

The progressive Senator has endorses. This is good, we should especially be mindful of Dodd's recent work opposing Bush's FISA bill.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ron Paul Mailer Demagogues Immigration


"That is why Ron Paul sponsored the Social Security for Americans Only Act in Congress".
Well, there's just one more reason why one shouldn't support Ron Paul.

No Country for Old Men

http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/movie/gallery/1183459/photo_04.jpg
Considering that the role of the academy awards is to publicize the industry more than reward excellence, it is heartening that this year's winner for best piture was indeed a magnificent film. I like this reflection (warning: spoilers) on it in the London Review of Books, and also this review in the New Republic. The film was directed by two of my favorite directors Joel and Ethan Coen. David Denby has and an article about the pair in the latest New Yorker.
I think that he partly misreads the Coens, and Christopher Orr thinks so, too. See this corrective.
This is amusing if you've seen the movie.

Discounting Texas

The Hillary campaign says Texas does count.
For a campaign that spins so much, the Clinton team sure are bad at it. It really isn't smart to insult people in states you lose saying that they "don't count" as the Clinton team (especially Mark Penn) has done repeatedly.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts on the Oscars

>John Stewart is a really, really good host.

>Tilda Swinton (winner- best supporting actress) is so, so strange. She compared the "buttucks" of the Oscar to that of her agent and claimed George Clooney wore a batman suit "with the nipples" under his suit and hung upside down during lunch break. What a weird lady.

>It is bizarre that Diablo Cody can go from "exotic dancer" (stripper) to winner of Best Original Screenplay. What a great world we live in.

>The closest thing to a surprise was when Marion Cotillard won for best actress for her role Edith Piaf in La Mome.

>It's really nice that "Once" which otherwise got little recognition was able to pull off Best Song and get a little recognition. What a wonderful little movie.

>A lot of the winners for best picture aren't very good, and others are good but not great. This years winner- "No Country for Old Men", is not in this category. I very much recommend it, if you can take it.

The Small-Minded Attack on Obama

It appears we have seen the game plan as far as the right attacking Obama.
Obama has other problems. The AP reports that conservatives are gearing up to go after his patriotism. (Michelle + lapel pin + no hand over heart photo.)

I'd be more inclined to wave this off as bluster if I hadn't just gotten an email from a relative in Ohio who says, coincidentally, "I still run into people who think Obama is a closet muslim and refuses to salute the flag , can you believe that?"

Unfortunately, yes.

This is both silly and ugly, but it's nice to know what attack thy're going to use. As the, this dovetails nicely with the charge that he is a Muslim "manchurian candidate".
Can they get away with it and not get called or laughed at. The right-wing smear machine has a history of getting away with pretty pretty outrageous attacks (see "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth"). Still, this seems pretty brazen.

Today's Non Sequitur


link
I like it, though I can't help but feel that the names are cribbed from the Simpsons.

Continuing Turkish Invasion

This is really unfortunate.

Turkish military land and air operations inside northern Iraq left 35 PKK guerrillas dead on Saturday, and two Turkish soldiers.

The PKK warned that it would blow up people in Turkish cities if the Turkish army did not withdraw. This threat would be more impressive if they hadn't already been blowing up people in Turkish cities.

Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, himself an Iraqi Kurd, said of the operation, "if it goes on, I think it could destabilise the region, because really one mistake could lead to further escalation."

As if to prove Zebari's point, the leader of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, warned the Turks of large-scale resistance if they advanced toward populated areas.
We are yet to see whether this turns out to be a massive crisis or just a small one. I have long been a pessimist about Iraq in general and the prospects of an Turkish invasion in particular. It really annoys me that conservayives have been touting the alleged progress in Al Anbar and the nations capital. This progress is likely unsustainable, and at any rate the bar for success has been set ridiculously low.
It appeats this happy-talk may be dashed as another crisis comes to Iraq.

Dammit, Ralph

Nader plans to run for president.
I wonder if Republicans will put big money into his campaign this time around. It didn't do much good in 2004.
My previous post on Nader.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Democrats

http://cagle.com/working/080220/brookins.jpg

Turkish Invasion

I've been waiting for this since before the US invasion. The Turks have launched the largest invasion of Iraq since the US invasion. I heard the the US green-lighted this. From Juan Cole.
Turkey, the NATO ally of the US, invaded Iraqi Kurdistan with between 3,000 and 10,000 troops and is facing heavy opposition from Kurdistan Peshmerga forces and from the Kurdish Workers Party paramilitaries. The Turkish military said in a statement 24 PKK rebels and five soldiers were killed in clashes in Iraq. It also said at least 20 rebels were killed in separate aerial attacks.'

The PKK has killed scores of Turkish soldiers in the past six months, and the Turks consider them a terrorist organization.

Annoyed at the Carpetbagger

He has second thoughts about Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar (he will win, make no mistake). Daniel Day-Lewis is the best of the year. He's so amazingly good. I don't care what the Carpetbagger says (ok maybe I am a little emotionally invested in this).
Anyway, check out the Carpetbagger's picks. He thinks that "No Country For Old Men" will win Best Picture. While I loved that, I think my favorite this year was "There Will Be Blood". Nevertheless, it is a deserving of an Oscar.

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain Scandal Continued

Matt Welch, author of McCain: the Myth of a Maverick and an editor of Reason Magazine, explains the McCain story, and what is actually scandalous about it. Its the lobbyist, stupid (to paraphrase a Clinton era slogan).
I mainly agree with him, although I am not sure the way he is that the war will dominate the campaign with the economy in the state it is.

Sex, Drugs & Influence Pedaling

Hendrik Hertzberg, who is among my favorite commentators, has a excellent columm on politicians and drugs.
Conservatives were fond of saying during the Clinton years that what is important is "character". Liberals, however, like to say the opposite. For this reason, it is unsurprising that the Times story which makes insinuations (which I strongly suspect are true, but are not substantiated) about a McCain affair has not gained much traction on the left (it appears lefty bloggers are also sitting this one out).
This is unsurprising. No one forgets the "Sexual McCarthyism" of the Starr Report (indeed this is one of the first political events I remember) and ugly politics of personal destruction levelled at Bill Clinton. We realize that it would be the height of hypocrisy to attack John McCain.
This may paradoxically get John McCain off of the hook. The most damaging part of this is not rumors of an affair, but the influence pedaling. John McCain may be literally in bed with a lobbyist, but he is clearly figuratively in bed with plenty of lobbyists.

It still remains to be seen whether yesterday's New York Times piece will be the last word on John McCain's relationship with Vicki Iseman. For now, the Times quoted anonymous aides saying that they'd suspected there was an affair ongoing; McCain denies that there was.

But remember that the Times piece ran under the memorably lame headline, "For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk." There's a broader point there. Set aside the issue of the nature of his relationship with Iseman, and you have the undeniable conflict of McCain, the chest-beating reformer, being so undeniably close to lobbyists. That, many have pointed out, is the real story. The man who's absurdly proclaimed that "I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to" is surrounded by lobbyists.

Please, let's not let the real story get lost in the fluff.

Oscars and Politics

For me, it's like being Hillary Clinton. If it weren’t for Barack Obama, it would have been a very good year.

-George Clooney on being up against Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor. Clooney is supposed to be really good at these things (the article features his complete list), and says there is no way Lewis won't win. I agree.
Dare I say that Lewis is drinking the competition's milkshakes?

McCain and the Conglomerates

Mark Kleiman thinks that part of the reason that McCain gets such good coverage is because he is very friendly toward the interests of Big Media.

It's a commonplace that John McCain has long been a media darling. The kid-gloves treatment of the Iseman story by most of the broadcast media reflects that. The usual narrative is that McCain makes nice to reporters, makes himself accessible, and gives good quote, so reporters love him and give him every possible break.

No doubt there's truth in that. But I doubt it's the only relevant truth.

John McCain was also the chair, and is now the ranking minority member [Update: This is an error. McCain was indeed the Commerce Committee chair, but Ted Stevens, not McCain, is now the vice-chair (which seems to have replaced the old title of "ranking minority member")] of the Senate Commerce Committee. As Chair, he presided over the massive media consolidation of the past fifteen years, a process that has greatly restricted citizens' access to diverse points of view while greatly enriching the media barons who own the networks, TV stations, and cable companies. Moreover, as the Paxson Communications story illustrates, he had, and has, the power to help his media friends and punish his media enemies both by shaping legislation and by pressuring regulators.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shooting the Satellite

So, the Pentagon has used missile-defence technology to shoot down a not very deadly satallite. I like how when China did the same thing, it we said that they were obviously being aggressive.
Of course, it is very obvious to me that, as cool as I thought this was initially, this is only the Penagon showing off their toys. The result is the increased militarization of space. Not good.
Gail Collins has has a pithy take on this incident in the New York Times.

Politician Sex

Most good liberals feel that what a candidate does in his or her private life should not have a bearing on how we regard them in office, or whether we should elect them. As a good progressive, I tend to share this view, but will nonetheless comment on the McCain- Iseman story, because of some of its implications. Frankly, I think the story is probably true. While it is possible that this was a smear, and the Times is simply out to get McCain, I don't think so. I doubt they'd go where they did if they didn't know this story was true.
McCain cheated on his first wife multiple times before his first wife with multiple people before leaving her for his a wealthy heiress. Additionally, his campaign obviously didn't want to address the central claim.
I like the way Peter Sagal puts this.

For example, in the book, I point out how President Clinton, when first confronted with the Monica Lewinsky allegation, kept trying to move the topic from “did I have sex with her” (which of course, he did) to “Did I ask her to lie about it?” which, he always maintained, he never did. (As I point out in the book, there’s some evidence he actually did, but if so, it was never proved.) This is natural — any good general wants to pick the best ground for a fight.

So, I was interested in the first statements from the McCain campaign and then from McCain himself this morning — it was all about whether or not he’d betrayed the public trust, presumably by using his office to benefit the lobbyist. Not whether or not he’d canoodled with the woman in question. That, to me, was a strong indication of where, at least, they wanted to have this argument. However, this morning, McCain gave a very clear, if extremely brief, denial of the “intimacy” allegation… here it is, in its entirety: “No.”

Will that go down in history along with Clinton’s “I didn’t have sex with that woman?” It seems, at the very least, calculated to be more forgettable if proven untrue. A friend who works in Washington press circles tells me that the big problem with adultery stories is that newspaper standards call for someone with first hand knowledge of the affair to go on record. Which means that one of the two (or more!) parties has to confess, and that almost never happens. In fact, one could argue that Clinton’s greatest failing was not his flings, but the people he chose to have them with… unreliable, flighty, prone to talk about it. McCain, like the thousands of experienced pols who’ve come and gone before him, would never have made that error, so we may never know what happened.

Whatever truth is about this, it is in my opinion only worth watching for its political ramifications. The real scandal here is the influence peddling that McCain was clearly involved in. It comes down to McCain trying to intervene in the regulatory process for a company that provided him thousands of dollars. Maybe that isn't as palpable as an affair, but it hardly shows "integrity".

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bush More Unpopular than Ever

Damn, that's unpopular. Bush's popularity ratings stand at 19%. I really thought he couldn't possibly get anymore unpopular, but I guess I was wrong.
I'm not sure how unpopular Bush is historically, but I'm thinking certainly more unpopular than Carter, and possibly more unpopular than Nixon.

McCain and Torture

It say a lot about the moral bankruptcy that the most anti-torture Republican has seen the need to completely sell-out on the issue. Really sad.

The Bombing Pakistan Smear

I was going to write a post on the falsehood that "Obama wants to bomb Pakistan". However, Jon Chait got there first. He debinks it in a post at the New Republic. Here's his conclusion.

So, to review: Obama did not call for bombing Pakistan, ever. Meanwhile the Bush administration is undertaking air attacks against targets in Pakistan. Is this wildly irresponsible? I suppose you could make that case. But McCain isn't interested in an argument about the merits of striking al Qaeda against the costs of undermining Pervez Musharraf. He's just interested in lying about what Obama said in order to portray him as a foreign policy novice.

This is even more frustrating considering it is McCain who wants to use our military power dangerously and unnecessarily. Will the press focus on that, or on this misconstruing of Obama's position? Stay tuned.

Cartoon

toles cuba.jpg
I think that sum up where we are as a country, nevermind Cuba.

Hawaii gets Obamania

Apparently, the state has voted overwhelmingly for it's native son.
That's icing on the cake, really.
I heard the networks interrupted Hillary's speech for Obama's. I really understand why Hillary feels such animus toward Obama. She's worked all this time to be where she is, and now a political natural is poised to snag the prize from her waiting fingers. It's frustrating.
McCain seems to feel an even greater dislike for Obama. Hopefully, this will cause him to look cranky and aggressive in the general election campaign.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cheeseheads for Obama

It's another blow-out for Obama. He apparently cut deeply into Clinton's constituencies in a state that could have proved suitable terrain for her. No results from Hawaii yet, but it's probably good for Obama. Although some party leaders in the state support Hillary, it's Obama's home state and Obama has consistently done well in caucuses.
This is very good for the Obama campaign. Before, expectations were such that if Hillary won a single state in the recent line-up, it would be treated as a big loss for Obama. Now that Obama has made it through without tripping a single time, he is in a much better position once the fight comes to Texas and Ohio. Maybe those voters will buck the trend, but HRC is looking increasingly a long shot.

Huckabee Girl

My friend Paul brought this to my attention. Pretty funny.

The Results of Pakistan's Elections

Juan Cole, among the sharpest western observers of islam and the middle east, has a rather lengthy analysis of the results of the Pakistani elections.

By 2:20 am on Tuesday, out of 241 districts reporting, The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was shaping up as the biggest bloc in the federal parliament, with 80 seats (33% of those in districts reporting) so far. The PPP had been led by slain politician Benazir Bhutto, but did not benefit from a sympathy vote to the extent that some observers had expected.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)--the PMLN--loyal to Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, had won 64 seats(26.5%).

The other branch of the Muslim League, named "Q," had to that point done very poorly, winning only 37 seats (15%). Q supported Pervez Musharraf, the general who made a 1999 coup and who recently became a civilian president under irregular circumstances.

The Pakistan People's Party is relatively secular and slightly left of center. The Muslim League-N is right of center but traditionalist rather than fundamentalist (i.e. it is not militant, does not have imposition of Islamic canon law as its primary goal, does not require women to veil, etc. It is just Muslim big landlords and middle classes of Punjab and reflects their conservatism and traditionalism. Think rural Mexican Catholicism).

There are 279 directly-elected seats in the Pakistani National Assembly (the lower house). Once you add in women and minorities, there are 342. But those extra seats not directly elected are filled proportionally from parties in accordance with their proportion of the elected seats. So you can tell who won and who is powerful by looking at the 279.

The Pakistan People's Party may end up the largest party, with a plurality, but may need a coalition partner to form a government. Despite the rivalry between PPP and PMLN, the two could challenge their common enemy, President Pervez Musharraf, by making common cause. If current trends continue, even those two will not have the seats to impeach Musharraf, a move that would also require a majority in the 100-seat appointed senate, where Musharraf retains many PMLQ seats.

The rest of the post further analyzes provincial level elections, and points out a collapse of fundamentalist parties. More good news.

Outrage

Does Clinton really want to turn pledged delegates? God, I hope not. The tactic is just so Rovian.
Try to swing superdelegates is questionable, trying to turn pledged delegates is downright Machiavellian.

Adios, Fidel

Fidel Castro
The Cuban president/dictator is stepping down. I'm not sorry, except that it has happened so late. I won't condescend to my readership and explain the history of Cuba post-revolution, I trust these facts are well enough know.
Steve Clemens at the Washington Note has a good post on this in relation to US policy.

OK -- Which of the presidential candidates is prepared to finally break US-Cuba relations out of the anachronistic Cold War cocoon they have been frozen in and initiate a new course that benefits American interests?

Read the whole thing.

The O'Franken Factor

Al Franken has a slight lead over the slimy Norm Coleman.

Monday, February 18, 2008

No Country for Musharaff Supporters

http://www.mapsofworld.com/pakistan/maps/pakistan-map.jpg
It looks like a bad night for Musharraff. Even in an biased election, it looks like the Pakistan People Party- now run mainly by Asif Zardari and the Pakistan Muslim League (N)- run fromer PM Nawaz Sharif, have routed the Mushareff friendly Pakistan Muslim League (Q).
Both of these opposition leaders is pretty corrupt, and their previous stays in power does not portend good things (in his time as an appointee of his wife- Benazir Bhutto- Asif Zardari was know as "Mr. Ten Percent" for his corruption), but this is nevertheless a step in the right direction, and may even point to a restoration of democracy to Pakistan.

Be Afraid




















The Protect America Act (nice name) expired on Friday.

Bush administration: thanks to the Democrats, there could be terrorists under your bed.

The Clinton Gambits

The Sunday talkers blather about the two new Clinton strategies: superdelegates grabbing and seating the Michigan and Florida delegations.
I think the hoo-ha over the superdelegates is overhyped. While Clinton has an edge over Obama in committed superdelegates, this is probably unimportant. While rules give these delegates a right to vote there opinion over the popular winner, most of these people realize that it is best for the party to pick the popular winner. It seems very unlikely to me that these politicians and political operatives will trump the popular will and pick a nominee.
The seating of the Michigan and Florida delegates is a slightly thornier issue, allow Clinton say she is supporting the popular will of voter's in these states. I live in Michigan, and do not find this argument compelling. The primary was a joke, and in our state Clinton was the only major candidate to appear on the ballot. For this reason, I support holding a second contest to decide the delegates from Michigan. At any rate, this could matter in very close national contest.
The argument that Clinton stood with out state (made by our governor, among others) doesn't really ring true. Clinton's line on the early primary was exactly the same as Obama's, Edward's and the DNC's. It is true she has changed this line now that it is politically expedient, but that does not make her "loyal" to our state.
I supported the early primary because I think the system we currently have in place is ridiculous, and this is a suitable protest of unfair party rules. However, the result turned out to be unrepresentative and unfair (and ironically Michigan would have gotten a large voice had we waited), so we must repair it.

Pakistan's Elections

The Pakistani elections are today. In the lead-up to the elections there has been increasing violence including a tragic suicide bombing. We shall see if there is continuing violence today. While I have heard that opposition leads polls (the Pakistan Peoples Party may get a sympathy vote after the death of Benazir Bhutto), newspapers have already printed stories on exactly how the ISI- Pakistan's intelligence service, intends to rig the election. More on this when the results come in.

Geopolitical Repercussions

In reaction to the independence of Kosovo, Serbia say they will seek futher independence for the Republica Sprska. It would not surprise me if Russia does the same with Abkhazia.

Declaration of Independence


Kosovo declared independence yesterday. The recent story of Yugoslavia is murky and complicated (as is all of the regions history), but that doesn't mean we can't say anything definitive about it.
The place where the unraveling of Yugoslavia may well end is also the place where the drama arguably began. It was after the a clash between Kosovar police and Serbian protestors that Milošević was able to rise to power on nationalist sentiment, declaring "No one will dare beat you again."
Kosovo presents a dilemma for anti-interventionism. While I strongly opposed the Iraq war, I find it very difficult to think that Milošević ought to have been left to his own devices. In Serbia, the United States took action to head-off an unfolding genocide of Albanians by the Serb military.
It is true that the United States things remain bad in the former Yugoslavia, but the reality is that unobstructed "ethnic cleansing" would have been worse. It is also true that the United States policy was morally callous when it came to the unfolding tragedy of the Balkans (see Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: American Policy in the Age of Genocide and article on the subject by Mark Danner). However, our policy was unjust because we ignored genocide so long, not because we intervened. The intervention was necessary.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This Week in Blog

With Kosovo's independence expected tommorow, Pakistan's election on monday, Wisconsin's primary on Tuesday, this should be a big week at the Punditburo.

Friday, February 15, 2008

He's Back!












(me, as Clinton)



Clinton is saying Obama would "deny us universal healthcare." While there is something to this charge, the post wonders (with reason) if Bill is the right messanger for this charge considering the bumbling of Bill's 93 healthcare plan ended up denying us universal healthcare.
More on healthcare later.

Finding a Backbone

Has the House finally decided to stand up to the adminstrations scare-tactics? Stay tuned.
If they have this is good news. While fighting back doesn't mean you will necessarily win, one cannot win by simply not moving, as the Democrats have been throughout the Bush years.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Worst Campaign Song Ever

This is so terrible, the human mind can hardly comprehend it.

Unvalentine's Day

Charlie Brooker in the Guardian argues for having an Unvalentine's Day. He's a pretty good curmudgeon.
This week, millions of people across the country will celebrate the crippling delusion known as "love" by sending flowers, booking restaurants and placing stomach-churning small ads in newspapers. Valentine's Day - the only national occasion dedicated to mental illness - is a stressful ordeal at the best of times.

...

What's required is something to redress the balance: an Unvalentine's Day, if you will. A day that actively celebrates love's festering undercarriage. February 15 is ideal: there will be plenty of willing participants by then. Of course, if Unvalentine's Day is going to succeed, it will require commercial backing - which shouldn't be a problem, because there are loads of money-spinning opportunities here.

First off, how about a range of Unvalentine cards containing bitter messages for ex-lovers? Typical example: a mournful cartoon bunny with a harpoon lodged in its chest cavity, staggering blank-faced into oncoming traffic, with YOU RUINED MY LIFE printed across the top in massive, scab-red lettering. Or perhaps a Photoshopped image of Hitler snoozing in bed, accompanied by the words HOW CAN YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT? Naturally, each card would have a little poem on the inside, something such as: Roses are red/Violets are blue/I'm a meaningless robot/Molested by you.

There would also be a range aimed at disillusioned long-term couples: epithets include I CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS, IT ISN'T REALLY WORKING, and our-bestseller, the starkly effective DYING INSIDE.

...

n summary, Unvalentine's Day promises to be the most coldly practical celebratory festival in history - a far healthier affair than Valentine's Day itself. True love is so uncontrollably delightful, there's no need to set aside a mere day in its honour. As for love's torments - well, it's probably best to compress and release them in a single, orderly burst, once a year. And that day is February 15. Mark it in your diary. Next to the tearstains.

The Life and Death of Imad Mughniyah

The notorious terrorist Imad Mughniyah was killed yesterday.
According to the London newspaper Asharq Alawsat, a car bomb tore Mughniyeh apart as he left an Iranian school in Damascus. Iran was one of Mughniyeh’s many sponsors over his nearly 30-year history of terrorism: others included the PLO, Hezbollah, various Lebanese Shiite militia groups, and several lesser-known entities in the sphere of radical Shiism. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the death of Mughniyeh, who pioneered suicide terrorism during the bloody Lebanese civil war of the 1980s. But many intelligence and counterterrorism analysts interviewed by The Washington Independent speculated that Israel was probably responsible, as part of its longtime policy of targeting anti-Israel terrorists.
The article also worries that Hezbollah is considering a strike against the United States in retaliation. Writing in Time (not my favorite magazine), Robert Baer, a former CIA analyst, is skeptical about some of the different events that have been tied to Mughniyah, though he agrees the man is guilty as sin.
There are two ways to look at today's assassination of Hizballah's most notorious terrorist, Imad Fa'iz Mughniyah. In this country it will be one of rendering justice, one less terrorist, a turn on the war in terror.

There was an outstanding American arrest warrant for Mughniyah, for the murder of a Navy diver in 1985. The diver was a passenger on TWA 847, which was diverted to Beirut. Mughniyah personally ordered the diver's murder. And, unlike other cases where Mughniyah's role was shadowy, there is solid evidence for his presence in the hijacking; his fingerprints were found on the airplane.

Mughniyah also was the mastermind of several other savage hijackings and the taking of Western hostages, including a former colleague, CIA station chief Bill Buckley. All of these attacks were carried out at the behest of Iran.

The mainstream press has reported that Mughniyah truck bombed the Marines and two American embassies in Beirut in the 1980s, as well as being behind two bombings against Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina. Whether he was responsible or not for all of this mayhem — there is no conclusive evidence he was — no one is going to shed a tear in this country, in Israel, or the West for his passing.

Baer doesn't really get around to what the other way to look at Mughniyah's death is.

So who did this? To me, it seems there are two likely perpetratos, Israel and Syria. Syria, on the other hand, might have killed this man in a good-will gesture to the United States. Both of these governments has used these kinds of tactics in the past. The CIA is generally considered less likely to pull this off nowadays, but that's also a possibility. From the Israeli paper Haaretz:


If America did it, it would come as a great surprise to most experts in Washington. They refused Wednesday to assume America had a hand in the matter, damning evidence of the low regard in which the CIA is held.

The third version has Syria as a potential suspect, perhaps as a means of signaling to the Americans that it wishes to resume talks and sever ties, at least partially, with the terror groups that have made Damascus home.

Syria condemned the killing, but anyone looking for signs of Damascus' involvement could find them. For example: Syria's intelligence services are notorious for using car bombs for assassinations.

In any event, the fact that Mughniyah was killed on Syrian soil will go on the growing list of American charges against it.


Gore Won't Endorse

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Looks like Gore is going to play the role of elder statesman. Bill's not doing it, so someone needs to.
Basically, Gore appears to be preserving for himself the option of stepping in and declaring a winner in the event of a war over superdelegates, and thus being seen as a kind of mediating figure, rather than as someone trying to influence the outcome.

Contempt of Congress

The House finds white house chief of staff Josh Bolten (not to be confused with angry/borderline abusive diplomat John Bolton) and Harriet Miers (you may remember her as a laughably under-qualified Supreme Court nomination by Bush) in contempt of Congress.
"This is different than the existential contempt of Congress felt by all Americans"- Jon Stewart

McCainiac

How does McCain oppose waterboarding, yet oppose making it illegal. TPM Muckraker discusses his attempt to square the circle.

It's a mighty fine line to walk. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) opposes torture. But when the Senate held a vote yesterday that would effectively prevent the CIA from employing torture by restricting interrogation techniques to those under the Army Field Manual, he voted against it.

You can read his extended explanation of that vote below. But here's what it comes down to. The bill yesterday would have restricted the CIA to the Army's rules for interrogating detainees. McCain believes that the CIA should have a freer hand. That includes the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

Now, the Justice Department and the CIA haven't said exactly what those are. But precisely because the White House knew that they'd be fighting this battle, they've made quite an effort over the past month to broadcast that waterboarding is not on the list of possible techniques. That's what their PR offensive has been all about; waterboarding is off the table (for now), so let us keep our toys. Those other techniques "are reported to include stress positions, hypothermia, threats to the detainee and his family, severe sleep deprivation, and severe sensory deprivation," as Marty Lederman notes.

But by voting against the bill, McCain is saying that the CIA should have a free hand to employ techniques along these lines. At the same time, he stresses that the 2006 Detainee Treatment Act, the bill he himself sponsored, prohibits the use of any cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment and treatment that "shocks the conscience." He hasn't said which of the techniques listed above meet that description. But he trusts that the Justice Department and CIA will arrive at a "good faith interpretation of the statutes that guide what is permissible."

How likely do you think it is that the CIA and the Justice Department will come up with a "good faith interpretation of these statutes"? There's not a chance in hell'

Romney Endorses

Depressed Candidate
The Mittster throws his copious credibility behind John McCain.
The pic of Romney since dropping out (from the Onion).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Banning Waterboarding

The Senate has passed a bill which would contain provisions banning waterboarding. Obviously, this won't make it past our pro-torture president.
Worth noting is that the McCain, who has of spoken of opposing waterboarding, voted against the bill.

Congress Wastes Our Time

Words cannot express how little I care about the drugs in baseball hearings.
Just because something happens in front of Congress does not make it news. Think of how many vastly more important things have happened in Congress this year and not made news. Yet for some reason, this is big news.
I can see why CNN and other info-tainment sources would cover this, they'll cover any damn thing. What's more frustrating is the amount of coverage NPR has given to this. I'd expect better from them.

Hillary Hatred

Hillary Rodham Clinton
I generally try to steer away from Hillary-bashing. There is a lot of irrational hatred of her out there, and a lot of it is sexist in nature. While I do feel like she is somewhat of an opportunist, and make no bones about my strong preference for Obama, I'd be perfectly happy with Hillary as the Democratic nominee. While his foreign policy platform is more progressive, her domestic platform is rather to the left of his.

On the other hand, this story makes one take wonder if there isn't something to all that Clinton hatred. If Hillary is the nominee (an increasingly big if) than the Rovians can probably sink her candidacy on this story alone.

think Detroit

Another Friend has a Blog, this one is on the revitalization of Detroit. It's called think Detroit. Worth checking out.

Scenes From a Democratic Congress

The House might actually stand-up to president Bush.

The early signs from the House leadership have been that they will strongly oppose the Senate version. The chairmen of the two relevant committees, House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and House intel committee Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), both say they oppose the Senate bill. Conyers has said outright that he opposes such immunity, while Reyes says he needs more time to review the documents from the program "to make a determination." The House leadership has been making similar noises.

But it will indeed be a battle. The administration has put the pressure on any way it can. It's threatened to veto any bill that does not grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms. It is refusing to agree to any further extension of the Protect America Act -- which, after last month's 15-day extension is set to lapse this Friday -- and is revving up for another round of excoriating Democrats for attempting to extend that deadline while simultaneously warning what a calamity it will be if the bill does lapse.

We will see how this plays out. The Democrats have over and over been afraid to challenge the president. If anything is politically damaging, I'd say it was that. This alienates both the general public and people otherwise sympathetic to the party (myself, for example).

Seriously, how unpopular does this president have to be before we cans start scoring points off of him? More confrontation would help change the narrative from "the Dems can't do anything" to "the Dems can't do anything because of Republican obstructionism."

An unremarked on feature of all this is that the Republicans have been loyal to Bush throughout. Though it may come as a surprise to some who are my own age, there is no law of the universe that a president's party must fight for him to the death. Once, there were matters of principle that transcended party loyalty. Alas, no longer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

McCain Wins Virginia

A very close race, but the man who will almost certainly be the nominee emerges triumphant.
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The Party of Pusillanimity

The allegedly Democratic Senate voted overwhelmingly for the surveillance bill.
They also voted down any amendments that are helpful to civil liberties.
Feingold, among others, says it in the House's ballpark. Honestly, I don't have any more faith in the House than in the Senate.
I understand that the Dems need to defend themselves from charges of 'soft on terror', but really this is inexcusable.

The End


The writers' strike is over.

Obama Wins Virginia

Already called.

art.obama.va.afp.gi.jpg

Happy Darwin Day

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http://www.churchofreality.org/kansas-evolution.jpg
This is pretty good.

Telecom Immunity

Bush has been pushing for immunity for telecom companies complicit in the administrations spying on americans. Recently, there was a vote to strike these provisions. According to a roll-call
vote, Barack Obama was in favor (that is to say, opposed to immunity), McCain was opposed and Hillary Clinton... did not vote.
I love it how Clinton as been criticizing Obama for present votes (even though these were part of party strategy), yet she doesn't vote on something as important as this.
The senate grants retroactive immunity, and it's not even close, 67-31. TPM has all of the Democratic cross-overs.
They also voted down another oversight amendment.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Human Rights Loses a Defender

http://www.russiablog.org/LantosTom-Hearing.jpg

The respected congressman Tom Lantos has died. Dana Goldstein at the American Prospect blog has a retrospective.

Tom Lantos, the 14-term U.S. congressman from the Bay Area, died of esophageal cancer today at the age of 80. Lantos, who was born in Hungary, was the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress, and was chairman of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. His life story epitomizes some of the greatest struggles and triumphs of the last century: Lantos was a Nazi resistor in Budapest during World War II, where he hid in an apartment rented by righteous gentile Raoul Wallenberg and delivered food and supplies to other Jews in the ghetto. Lantos first came to the U.S. in 1947 on a scholarship to study economics, and was a professor and Democratic activist before being elected to Congress.

In the House, Lantos was hawkish on national security, though he believed strongly in diplomacy. He supported the Iraq war, but later came to believe the effort was severely mismanaged and off-track, and held many hearings on the matter. Lantos was a strong progressive when it came to defending human rights abroad. In 2006, he was arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy protesting the genocide in Darfur. Just last week, despite his illness, Lantos was in the news again, spearheading the Democratic effort to remove provisions from PEPFAR, President Bush's African HIV/AIDS bill, that require one-third of all funding to be funneled to abstinence-only programs. Lantos was also a leader on attempts to roll back the Global Gag Rule, which prevents U.S. foreign aid from funding contraception and abortion.

Last year he was a leading supporter of a House resolution asking the Japanese government to apologize for its sexual slavery of Chinese, Korean, and other women during World War II. That resolution passed. And Lantos once excoriated Yahoo! for its complicity in Chinese censorship.

It was a lot to fit into a lifetime.

Good article, though the construction "righteous gentile" seems a little weird to me. The New Republic blog also has a good retrospective. Especially worth noting is the recording of him castigating Yahoo! executives.

Back in the USSR

In Washington state the GOP stopped counting, then the head of the Washington GOP (Luke Esser) declared McCain the winner. I referred to this as the Washington GOP scandal (now, 93% have been counted, when they declared the race only 87% had been.)
Here's Luke Esser's rationalization.
Maybe it would have been safer if I hadn't said anything. But it was an exciting and historic day for the state and I thought if I was confident about what the outcome would be I should share that with the people who had gone out to their caucuses.
Unsurprisingly, Esser's patron is McCain's state campaign chairman.
Can you think of a dumber way of trying to rig an election? They called the election before it was finished and then try to wait until everyone forgets. You'd have trouble making that fly in the Eastern Bloc.
What's really outrageous here is the stakes are so low. Huckabee is toast and McCain is inevitable either way. Esser was willing to ignore the democratic wishes of his own party just to avoid further embarressing the inevitable nominee (though this is the sort of thing that ought to embarress a nominee).

Bad News for Obama

Bill Kristol thinks Obama is going to win. This is bad news for the Obama camp, Kristol has an almost perfect record of calling things the wrong way.
When Kristol was hired at the Times there was an outrage among bloggers. Why were they hiring a neo-conservative extremist who is never right, and moreover someone who said the the NYT should be proscecuted for treason?
To me, these concerns are less important. The only reason I'm mad at the Times for hiring him is he's simply a bad writer.

Youtube

The answer to the Obama video.

Campaign Quiz

The New Yorker provides a quiz on some of the outrageousness of the campaign so far.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Washington GOP Scandal

What the Washington GOP did is frankly outrageous. They waited until McCain was ahead, then called the state for McCain and stopped counting. It really doesn't make their party look very good. Disenfranchisement of their own voters in the name of party unity isn't honorable. Huckabee's people are up in arms about this.

The Huckabee Presidential Campaign will be exploring all available legal options regarding the dubious final results for the state of Washington State Republican precinct caucuses, it was announced today. Campaign Chairman Ed Rollins issued the following statement:

"The Huckabee campaign is deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses. It is very unfortunate that the Washington State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, chose to call the race for John McCain after only 87 percent of the vote was counted. According to CNN, the difference between Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee is a mere 242 votes, out of more than 12,000 votes counted-with another 1500 or so votes, apparently, not counted. That is an outrage.

...

This is not about Mike Huckabee. This is not about Senator John McCain. This is about the failings of the Washington State Republican Party. All Republicans should unite to demand an honest accounting of the votes, so that Republicans can have full confidence in the results, and full confidence in the eventual Republican nominee. As I said, we are prepared to go to court, and we are also prepared to take our case all the way to the Republican National Convention in September.

Our cause is just. We must reemphasize the sacred American principle that all ballots be counted in a free, fair, and transparent manner.

Obama Takes Maine

Nice. This is shaping up well for Obama. As Matt Yglesias pointed out, back in October, Hillary was beating Obama by 46 to 10.

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/us_2001/maine_ref_2001.jpg

More on Washington

Apparently, what the GOP did in Washington was declare John McCain the winner with only 87% reporting, even though he only had a 1.8 margin. Pretty sketchy. In 2000, we saw Republicans disenfranchising Democrats, but this takes the cake. This is Repubicans disenfranchising Republicans.

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/us_2001/washington_ref_2001.jpg

Religious History

Another of those moving maps, on the evolution of religions. I love it how it treats the births of Krishna and Abraham, both mythological figures, as actual events.

An angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham and Isaac

The story of Abraham always seemed to me a good reason as to why one should not believe in this sort of thing.

5,000 Years in 90 Seconds

I love this. The history of the Middle East (the other moving maps on the site are cool, too).
Of course, the question isn't just what the Mideast looked like thousands of years ago, but also what the region will look like in a few decades. Jeffrey Goldberg speculates about that in the most recent Atlantic Monthly. I'm not sure how far I'd buy into this speculation, but it's certainly interesting.

Surveillance

Apperently, Harry Reid has filed a bill to guard against the expiration the bill.

To guard against the expiration of a temporary surveillance law Feb. 16, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., has filed a bill that would extend it for 15 days.

The Senate is expected to pass a six-year bill overhauling the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Feb. 12, but that gives lawmakers little time to work out a compromise between the Senate bill and a House-passed version before the Presidents Day recess begins and the temporary law expires.

Reid filed the latest extension Friday “in case we can’t finish the conference negotiations in time,” spokesman Jim Manley said.

The most outrageous thing about this attempt to extend the bill is the way the GOP has been both fear-mongering and not allowing extension. Read about it.

Washington Revision

It turns out, McCain eeked out a victory in Washington. This doesn't change the overall picture much, it still looks like a bad night for McCain. There appears definite buyer's remorse among the GOP.
Here's how it breaks down. 26% for McCain, 24% for Huckabee, 21% for Ron Paul, 17% for Romney (even though he's no longer running) and 13% are uncommitted. Bad result for McCain, make no mistake about it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

More Huckabee

It's a good day for Mike Huckabee. It looks like he's going to win Kansas, Louisiana and Washington.
I was never worried about the prospect of a Mike Huckabee presidency. I knew he was hated by the Republican establishment, and had no chance of getting the nomination. Had he won, he'd have received a pounding in the general election, especially with the establishment sitting it out.
Now that McCain is the shoe-in, I fear Huckabee even less. All this is a rebuke of the party's certain nominee and a sign of schism in the party. Don't think that he might somehow be the nominee, we're not that lucky.

Impressive Victories for Obama in Washington, Nebraska and Louisiana

Good showing, this makes me more hopeful for the coming month. The AP:
The Illinois senator was winning two-thirds support in both caucus states and led by a 53-39 ratio in Louisiana with about a third of the precincts reporting. He was hoping to extend a string of Southern primary triumphs that already included South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.

Blowout in Kansas

It appears that Mike Huckabee won Kansas over John McCain by a large margin. I breaks down like this: 60% Huckabee, 24% McCain and 11% Paul. Recently, many pundits have been talking about Huckabee as if he is a southern regional candidate, forgetting he won his biggest upset in Iowa.
Kansas is ideal ground for Huckabee, I'm sure everyone whose heard about the evolution battles in Kansas knows this. There is abook about the culture-war in the state called What's the Matter With Kansas.

Romney's Wonder Year

Someone shared this on a comment thread. Let's break some hearts here.

Ron Paul

Congressman Ron Paul

I've always had trouble understanding the appeal of Ron Paul. My best guess is that people see clips from the Republican debates and see that he is the only candidate talking sense about the Iraq war (even while being derided by the others) and wrongly conclude that the rest of his opinions must be reasonable as well.
Alas, this is not the case.
Paul is a big enemy of abortion. Now, that's an strange view for the candidate of anti-paternalism to be taking.
Lest we think that Ron Paul's libertarian beliefs mean he isn't a conservative culture warrior, we may turn to the man's own words. In the article "the War on Religion", parts read as if they were plagiarized from Bill O'Reilly. Paul conceives of America as a Christian nation:
"The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. "
That's right, Ron Paul doesn't believe in separation of church and state.
Ron Paul was the only member of the House who voted against renewing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Here's him on the house floor.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties.
The statement boils down to this: Wal-Mart ought to be able to refuse to hire blacks.

Ron Paul's wishes to with every federal and international instition are scarey enough, and those are just the beliefs he admits to on the campaign trail. What he doesn't say is probably even scarier. The best evidence of Ron Paul's wing-nutty beliefs is the Ron Paul Newsletter, a publication published under his name for decades and containing the worst sort of racist, homophobic and pro-militia filth. The New Republic has the story.

Seating the Michigan Delegates



The New Republic is alarmed by the Clinton ploy to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates, and concurs with the solution of holding a new contest.
There is a perfectly cogent case to be made that Floridians and Michiganders deserve their say. (Some of our best friends and elderly relatives reside in those states.) The way to address this complaint is to schedule new elections so that candidates can advertise, make speeches, organize voters, distribute yard signs--you know, do "democracy," a concept Clinton seems not to understand. The DNC, if it does decide to redress Clinton's complaint, needs to do so immediately.

One Hundredth Post

http://frankthetank.files.wordpress.com/2006/12/birthday-cake.gif

Yay.

Yay!

The writer's strike could be nearing an end.
Striking Hollywood screenwriters said Saturday they had agreed a deal to settle their three-month old dispute and could be back at work next week if it meets with union members' approval.

Leaders of the 12,000-strong Writers Guild of America emailed members early Saturday to inform them an agreement with studio chiefs had been reached which would be discussed at meetings in New York and Los Angeles.

Very good news if you like TV. Even better news if you are Jon Stewart and have to present the Oscars.

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

Here.

Kosovo Blogging

A blog has a post on Serbian Kosovars role in a post-independence Kosovo.
While Serbia will take Kosovo’s independence lying down do not expect the Serbs in Kosovo to be passive. Serbs have made public declarations that they will form their own local government which will report to Belgrade and not Pristina. They may even push for reentry to Serbia using the same ethnic homeland logic which will grant Kosovo’s independence.
They also provide a nice map of the ethnic makeup of Kosovo.

Cluster Bombs

Obama voted in favor of banning them, Hillary did not. Check this article.

Over 150 nations have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. It pains me that our great nation has not. But in the autumn of 2006, there was a chance to take a step in the right direction: Senate Amendment No. 4882, an amendment to a Pentagon appropriations bill that would have banned the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

Senator Obama of Illinois voted IN FAVOR of the ban.

Senator Clinton of New York voted AGAINST the ban.

Analysts say Clinton did not want to risk appearing "soft on terror," as it would have harmed her electibility.

I'm not a single-issue voter. But as Obama and Clinton share many policy positions, this vote was revelatory for me. After all, Amendment No. 4882 was an easy one to vote against: Who'd want to risk accusation of "tying the hands of the Pentagon" during a never-ending, global War on Terror? As is so often the case, there was no political cost to doing the wrong thing. And there was no political reward for doing the right thing.

But Senator Obama did the right thing.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mitt

Fondly looking back on the candidacy.

Photo of the Day

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Doesn't this make you think of photograph taken of your parents when they were young?

Independence Day

For a change from my election coverage, it looks like Kosovo is about to declare independence.
Kosovo will set to declare independence from Serbia next week, the Serbian government claimed today, stoking fears of renewed instability in the region.

The Serbian minister for Kosovo said his government has information that the province will declare independence on February 17.

Slobodan Samardzic said in a statement that "the government of Serbia is receiving relevant information" that Kosovo's government will "illegally declare the unilateral independence of Kosovo on Sunday February 17".

The story continues.

Kosovo has been under UN administration since Nato expelled Serbian forces with a bombing campaign in 1999. Ethnic Albanians, who form 90% of the province's population of 1.9 million, want independence.

Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, said about 100 countries were ready to recognise the province's independence as soon as it is declared. "We will have a powerful and massive recognition," he told a news conference.

Thaci was speaking after his weekly meeting with Joachim Ruecker, head of the UN's Kosovo mission. Thaci did not name any countries or specify when he would declare independence.

Some European diplomats fear an independent Kosovo would mean a return to instability in the Balkans.

Serbia has warned the west of serious consequences to secession, suggesting that Kosovo could be partitioned, as Serbs in the north of the province align themselves with Bosnian Serbs seeking independence, creating a Serbian republic, or "Republika Srpska", in Bosnia.

The Serbian government has ruled out the threat of military action against Kosovo, but has warned of destabilisation, as "volunteers" - a euphemism for paramilitaries - from Serbia proper would go to "help" the Kosovo Serbs.

I doubt this will mean a return to open war in the Balkans, but anyone who knows the history of the Bosnian Serb and Croat Serb republics will find that last paragraph particularly chilling.


Romney

Adam Felber:
First, my congratulations to Mitt Romney. Many candidates lose because they fail to get voters’ attention, others because their policies are out of step with their party’s voters, still others because their competition is too fierce and charismatic. Mitt might be the first candidate to lose simply because so many of his colleagues and constituency thought he was kind of a prick.

Bill

Bill Clinton(from the David Levine Gallery)

Bill Clinton says he made a mistake. Jacob Levy at TNR's Open University reflects on Bill's bare-knuckle politics in an interesting post.
After all, the tension (if it is a tension) between Clinton the smart and charismatic progressive and Clinton the brutal bare-knuckles campaigner was such a common trope coming out of the 1992 campaign that it could get put at the center of Joe Klein's Primary Colors. Clinton may have beat Bush in the fall of 1992 by feeling the audience's pain--but he beat Paul Tsongas in the spring by blanketing Florida in lies and deceptions about Social Security and Israel. Nothing Bill's done in the last several weeks should come as any surprise to anyone who remembers Florida '92. Later, he dispatched Jerry Brown with one of those strategic shows of temper, exploding at him in a debate that Brown had crossed the line by mentioning the corruption charges involving shady deals between the Arkansas state government and Hillary's law firm: "You ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You're not worth being on the same platform as my wife."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Romney

The first piece of journalism I read on Romney was in Harper's and was called Making Mitt Romney: How To Fabricate a Conservative. It explained Mitt Romney's strategy pretty well.

The Primary Season

Marc Ambinder likes how the primaries are working out.

EVERY four years, Washington moans about the way the national political parties select their presidential nominees. But the grumbling about the 2008 contest has struck an unusual note. Instead of complaining about a process that is too short, some now mutter that the process is too drawn out. Instead of being too predictable, the campaign is too confusing and uncertain: no one has any idea what will happen next. Is this any way to pick a president?

Actually, yes: the Democrats in particular appear to have stumbled — partly by design and partly by chance — into a primary calendar that fixes many of the problems with the way the party has chosen its presidential candidates in the past. Sure, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have run extraordinary campaigns. But the framework of the calendar has enriched the competition between them.

Here’s how we got here. In 2000 and 2004, the votes of white men and women in two relatively small states determined the Democratic presidential nominee.

The party’s financiers do not live in Iowa or New Hampshire. Democratic interest groups felt as if their votes and generous donations were being taken for granted. So in 2004, the chairman of the party, Terry McAuliffe, appointed a calendar commission to serve his successor, Howard Dean.

Mr. Dean’s experience as a small-state governor whose underdog presidential race had been derailed by Iowa influenced the commission. Its members decided to add two early states: Nevada, with its high population of Hispanics and its service-oriented labor unions, and South Carolina, where half the Democratic vote is black.

If Democrats in any of the remaining 46 states scheduled their contests earlier than Feb. 5, they would lose their ability to send delegations to the national convention in Denver. Mr. Dean and his committee believed that the voting in the four early states would determine a front-runner quickly — yet still ensure that the nominee had been vetted by a diverse subsection of the party.

However, the exuberance of American democracy intervened. Republicans in Michigan and Florida last year came up with the idea of moving their states’ primaries into January. Democrats in those states eagerly agreed and dared the national party to disenfranchise them — two states that were vital to the Democrats’ chance of winning the fall election.

The Democrats went ahead and enforced their rules. And because party leaders in Florida and Michigan shared the assumption that the new calendar would produce an early front-runner, they didn’t really mind. Surely the party’s nominee, decided well in advance of the convention, would seat the delegations — and Florida and Michigan, by voting early, would have had a larger say in ratifying the consensus that emerged around that nominee.

Once more, democracy has interfered with the plan. Had Michigan remained on Feb. 9 and Florida on March 4, their influence would have been considerable. Instead, their haste to go first wound up lessening their influence, rather than giving them a louder voice.

Now, an array of new states and their tens of millions of voters will find their interests well represented in this campaign: Maryland, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio and maybe even Pennsylvania, whose voters go to the polls on April 22.

Democrats in the larger states are loath to admit it, but the secret to a well-vetted nominee is a diverse gantlet of small states followed by a national primary — which is exactly what is happening this year. Smaller states help neutralize the advantages conferred by money-raising and name identification. In such a setting, the better candidates tend to rise to the top. (Of course, this logic holds for any small state, not just Iowa or New Hampshire.)

The system this year hasn’t been perfect. The party’s delegate-allocation rules are biased against candidates who win the majority of the votes, which gives underdogs too many chances to catch up. Under the rules, it would have been possible for one candidate to win more delegates on Tuesday than the other did, without winning nearly as many votes. The party doesn’t completely trust its voters to make the right decision: it even adds a layer of free-agent celebrity politicians, called superdelegates, who can vote for whomever they want.

Despite these flaws, the system drawn up by Mr. Dean and his commission is serving the Democrats well. By the time the nomination is finally won, a majority of the party’s primary voters will have had the chance to ratify, or reject, the decisions made by voters in early states.

Instead of worrying about how to fix the process, the party should try to figure out how to repeat it.


It's true, this process is much better than system where two tiny early states allows the nomination to be sown-up. It seems like it was partly just luck that we got a truly participatory contest.

Either way, we ought to alternate who goes first, even with this quasi-national primary.

Another Blog

My friend has created a blog called Lucifer.

Romney Out

After spending $1.16 million per delegate, Mitt Romney is out. It appears the cyber-prep is determined to exit the race with the least possible dignity intact.
I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

Almost exactly forty years ago, George Romney, Mitt's father, ended his campaign for president of the United States. He had ruined his campaign by saying he was "brainwashed" into accepting the Vietnam war. Eugene McCarthy said "I'd think in his case a light rinse would be enough."
Like father, like son.

Money Makes the World Go Round

Hillary has raised $4 million in 24 hours, which seems impressive until you consider that Barack raised $6 million in 24 hours. As Matt Yglesias observes "Hillary Clinton has put together an amazing organization that's shattering all the records except . . . the ones being created by Barack Obama."
Nevertheless, Hillary saw the need to write her campaign a $5 million loan. Everyone running is rich, but the Clintons are loaded. Seriously, the Clintons are supposed to be a the class act in campaigning. Why are they are they cutting themselves a big check like Mitt Romney or Dick Devos? That's supposed to be for amateurs.
A multi-millionaire cutting her own campaign 5 million isn't just tacky, it also raises questions ethically when it comes to how campaigns ought to be financed.
Mark Kleiman has some thoughts on the matter, which I think asks soem pretty good questions.

1. Why should I give money to a multi-millionaire's campaign not knowing whether it will go to campaign operations or to pay back the candidate?

2. Why should I give money if the candidate will only lend money? Of course, this isn't strictly logical, since lending money is a greater commitment than not lending it. But the loan reminds people that the candidate has money to burn.

3. Should someone who supports limits on individual campaign contributions evade those limits by writing a big personal check? (This applies to contributions as well as loans.) Don't Democrats disapprove of the Romney-Bloomberg style of trying to buy office?

In that regard, consider the words of William Jefferson Clinton:

In response to a question in Cedar Rapids about campaign finance reform, Clinton touched on a possible presidential bid by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Let's think of somebody I really admire, the mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg," Clinton said. "I like him; he's a really good mayor. But if he's runs for president, he can spend a billion dollars and not miss it. That's real money to most of us. Under the law, there are no constraints."

He railed against the Supreme Court for blocking some attempts to limit the influence of money in politics.

"We are very frustrated because we have a Supreme Court that seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us."

And he implied that he would not use his own funds to support his wife's candidacy.

"For example, they say you couldn't stop me from spending all the money I've saved over the last five years on Hillary's campaign if I wanted to, even though it would clearly violate the spirit of campaign finance reform," he said.

Salt, Mr. President? Ketchup? Relish? [And don't you love that "saved," as if he'd accumulated an eight-figure fortune by living parsimoniously?]

4. This makes the way the Clintons made their money a political issue and not just a personal one. Insofar as they got rich off their political connections, that was a legitimate question anyway, but this accentuates the problem.

5. If HRC wins the election, or if she doesn't and goes back to being a powerful senator, there's going to be a fundraising drive to pay off the debt. Those contributions, unlike routine campaign contributions, will go directly into her pocket. Won't that put her under a special obligation to those donors? And, since those contributions won't actually help her get elected to anything, won't they be especially likely to come from buyers-of-access rather than political supporters?